Whaur ah Belang

By Ethyl Smith

Aw ah hud tae dae wis sclim a wire fence, jump doon on the ither side an weech thru the lang grass, in an oot the birch an hawthorn, tramplin the daisies an buttercups, swishin by tall, pink willow herb, jiggin roondclumps o whin an jaggy gorse wi thur bricht, yella floors that aye gied a sweet whiff o coconut when the sun shone.

If it hud been rainin ma feet wur sploongin in nae time. But ah didna care.Ah wis heidin fur a circle o willow trees, auld an wise wi age, an ma special place.

Richt in the middle wis the auldest yin, twisted as a corkscrew, wi the hindmaist branches near scliffin the grun, liksome grand, auldduchess, in ane o they fancy frocks, sweepin a low curtsy, an sayin welcome.

Up there, ah cud sit an think, or jist sit. Naebody botherin me, yipperin at me, tellin me whit tae dae, naebody tae argue wi. Jist naebody. Ah liked that.

When spring camthe new,wee leaves uncurled anma treepit onthe bonniest hat,licht an fragileas the finest, green lace afore it thickened up fur summer. An thicken up it did, protectin me when the raincam dingin doon. It wis jist lik an umbrella, an haurly a drap ever landit on ma heid. On sunny days the same coverin kept me fine an cool in the shade. Cam autumn ma green tent wud change tae orange or broon afore the leaves dried up an fluttered doon tae mak a carpet on the grun. Aifter that the tree wud gang tae sleep fur winter, its pattern o black branches lik a skeleton against the sky.

If ah kept quiet an didna move, the birds forgot aboot me. Ah cud watch thur antics, especially at nestin time, an listenin tae thur chirps an tweets did mair fur me than aw they electronic tweets nooadays.

Ane nicht ah hud an adventure. Ah taen a flask, an some sandwiches, an sneakit oot the hoose tae spend the nicht up ma tree. Ah’d seen wee hoof marks champit on the saft grun roond the base o the trunk, an wantit tae see if ma guess wis richt.

 It wis a lang nicht. Hawf the time ah wis feart o strange scufflin noises comin oot the daurk, the ither hawf ah wis that cauld ah cudna feel ma nose nor ma taes. But ah stuck it oot, angled ah did when six,wee roe deer trots furrit tae staun there in the moonlicht lik somethin oot o ‘Bambi.’

Ah didna daur move while they snuffled an wuffled roond the tree as if dain some ritual dance. On an on they went. It wis near daylicht afore they gied up and disappeared back intae the bushes. An then it wis touch an go fur me gettin back tae the hoose afore onybody kent ah’d been awa.

As a wean ah’d aften dae ma hamework balancin on the widest branch wi ma back steadied against the trunk. An mony a library book made a return visit tae ma quiet spot. Sometimes ah even heard masel talkin tae the tree. An sometimes ah imagined it cud answer.

The day aifter grandpa’s funeral wis special when ma tree cam intae its ain an allooed me a guid, private greet ower whit ah’d lost an wudna see again.

An when ma so cawed boyfreen wannered aff it didna seem tae mind me punchin an scratchin at its bark till ah cam tae ma senses an realised the beggar wis a waste o space onyway.

Ma auld, willow tree felt mair lik ma real hame than ma hoose, an ah expectit it wud aye be lik that.

An then ane Friday mornin ah caught the bus fur toon tae spend the day shoppin, an indulgin masel.

Little did ah ken, on that very day awthin wis aboot tae chainge.

When ah cam back thur wis an awfy shock waitin. At first ah thocht ah wis in the wrang place, hud gotten aff the bus too early. But naw. It wis richt enough.

Streetchin aheid wis nuthin but black earth, no a tree tae be seen, only mangled piles o whit hud been, an three, massive, smokin diggers edgin back an furrit, scrapin awthin awa tae mak it even mair bare.

When ah askit whit wis happenin ah wis tellt it wis progress. Whit hud been wild an natural wud soon be roads an hooses fur fowk. An that wis mair important than trees, an grass, an beasties.

Fur me it felt lik the end. An fur a while so it wis until ah began tae unnerstaun thur wis a way furrit. Aw ah hud tae dae wis shut ma een an wish, an ah cud be back, sittin on ma favourite branch. It’s easy done, fur aince ma een are shut ah’m ower that fence an awa lik a whippet oot a trap.

It’s aften said that hame is whaur the heart is. But it’s no. Trust me. It’s safe an soond inside yer heid, whaur naebody, nur nuthin, can tak it awa.